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In an an unusual move, Pope Francis addressed the faithful of the Indian Syro-Malabar Church, which is grappling with a serious liturgical dispute. The Pope addresses them directly in a video message broadcast on December 7, 2023. “Restore communion, remain in the Catholic Church!” the Pontiff urged.
He gave the opponents until Christmas to implement the reform of their rite voted by their leaders.
Pope Francis warns the priests of this Church, the main initiators of the protest in the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamly, in Kerala, against the danger of becoming “a sect.”
If the faithful do not apply the new rite of the mass – called Qurbana, or “holy sacrifice” in this Eastern liturgy – “appropriate sanctions will have to be taken,” affirms the head of the Catholic Church, who does not wish “to come to that.”
The Pontiff also accepted the resignation of the head of the Syro-Malabar Church, Cardinal George Alencherry, and condemned the violence that has occurred in recent years. Members who were opposed to the reform have organized agitated demonstrations, burning effigies of ecclesiastical dignitaries.
Last August, the movement tried to prevent the Pope’s envoy, Archbishop Cyril Vasil, from entering Ernakulam-Angamly’s Cathedral, the headquarters of their Church, which has 4.5 million followers in India.
Aleteia proposes a working translation of Pope Francis’ message.
Brothers and sisters of the Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly, I am close to you!
I have been following you for years, I know the faith and apostolic commitment of the beloved Syro-Malabar Church, which is a source of joy and pride for the Universal Church, and that is why my heart is sad today as I speak to you.
Your Synod, after long and arduous work, found an agreement on how to celebrate the Holy Qurbana. Charity and love for communion has driven the members to take this step, even though some of them do not consider such a form of celebration ideal. It is the sacrifice that communion requires!
But the Church is communion. If there is no communion, there is no Church. It is a sect.
I know that for some years certain people, who should be examples and true teachers of communion, especially presbyters, have been urging you to disobey and oppose the decisions of the Synod. Brothers and sisters, do not follow them!
Discussion, when it is not peaceful, generates violence. And among you there has been and is violence, especially against those who want to remain in communion and celebrate as your Church has established.
I too have repeatedly urged you to be docile to your Church. How can it be Eucharist if you break communion, if you disrespect the Blessed Sacrament, amid fights and brawls?
I know there are reasons for opposition that have nothing to do with the celebration of the Eucharist or the Liturgy. These are worldly reasons. They do not come from the Holy Spirit. If they don’t come from the Holy Spirit, they come from elsewhere.
That is why I have studied carefully and with time the reasons that have been given for years to convince you. I have written to you several times before, but I know that my letters were not read to everyone.
Now I have decided to address you, the holy faithful people of God, the clergy, religious men and women, and especially you, dear lay faithful, who have so much faith in the Lord and who love the Church. And I do it in this somewhat unusual way, so that no one will have any more doubts about what the Pope thinks.
In the name of the Lord, for the spiritual good of your Church, of our Church, I ask you to recompose this rupture. It is your Church, it is our Church. Restore communion, remain in the Catholic Church!
And you, presbyters, remember your ordination and the commitments you have made. Do not separate yourselves from the path of your Church, but walk with the Synod, your bishops, the Major Archbishop. Accept to put into practice what your Synod has established.
I sent you my Delegate in the person of Archbishop Cyril Vasil. He came among you and he, too, on my behalf, asked you to put an end to the struggle, put an end to the opposition and sometimes the violence – there is!
Don’t you see that in this way the Church gets stuck and so many good initiatives can no longer be exercised in the service of God’s holy people, in the service of the sanctification of God’s people?
See to it that by Christmas 2023 your Archdiocese humbly and faithfully agrees to be at the same pace as the rest of your Church, respecting all the directions of your Synod.
Please be careful! Be careful that the devil does not induce you to turn into a cult. You are churches, do not become a sect. Do not force the competent Church Authority to take note that you have left the Church, because you are no longer in communion with your Pastors and with the Successor of the Apostle Peter, who is called to confirm all brothers and sisters in the faith and to preserve them in the unity of the Church. With great sorrow, then, the appropriate sanctions will have to be taken. I do not want to come to that.
For the coming Christmas, therefore, in the Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly as in the whole Syro-Malabar Church, let the Qurbana be celebrated in communion, following the directions of the Synod. Remember in the Liturgy your Major Archbishop and pray for him. This has always been an important sign that you recognize yourselves in the unity of the Church. Then it will be Christmas for all your people, for everyone.
Please do not continue to injure the body of Christ! Do not separate yourselves from it any more! And even if there have been wrongs against you, forgive them with generosity.
May the Eucharist be the model of your unity. Do not shatter the Body of Christ that is the Church, so as to not eat and drink your condemnation (cf. 1 Cor. 11:29).
May the Lord bless you and may the Holy Spirit enlighten you. And please do not forget to pray for me. Thank you!